How We Got Started Flipping Houses

We bought our first house in the summer of 2016, a rundown 1888 Victorian. Reed and I had always wanted to flip a house, and were excited to find our opportunity. When it came on the market we were the first ones to look at it. I still vividly remember how it smelled when we walked in. The smell of dust and “old” was very distinct, but it was also distinct how I knew I wanted the house when we walked in.

We fell in love with it almost instantly, and the temporarily bad situation we had soon found ourselves in actually propelled us into the career we love.

Our little family the day we closed on our first house in 2016
How we got started renovating houses
Our house when we bought it

Since neither of us had much carpentry experience, we hired a contractor to do most of the work. We hired him to redo the kitchen, bathroom, add a bathroom, redo the hardwoods, patch damaged walls, paint interior and exterior of the home, and replace the windows.

They started work on the exterior and it was going well. I was loving picking paint colors (I picked BM Evening Dove for the exterior cedar shakes and I loved it but it still wasn’t exactly what I was going for but oh well) and making design choices. Work was going along fine, until it wasn’t.

Reed started having to be a little more persistent to get them to show up at the work site. Then excuses started coming. Their exterior work looked good, and their interior floor refinishing and patching/painting. They framed in the bathroom, laundry, and mudrooms well. The electrical was fine.

Reed and Maren, in the middle of the renovation

They told us we would be fine to move in by September 1st, a generous amount of time to finish the work. So we told our landlord we would be out by then. August of course comes by, and the work isn’t done. Mid-August, and the work isn’t done. It’s not going to be done. Reed is getting on this guy, “Why is this not getting done?”

We had paid him only for the work that had been done, so we weren’t worried about the money, thankfully. Just about if we were going to have a place to live.

We researched this guy a little more, and we discovered that he wasn’t even a contractor.

Was not a contractor.

Reed fired him, obviously. We were then left with no place to live in just a few days with our 10-month-old baby.

We clearly should have researched if he had an official license, but we had not thought to, as he had come recommended to us by someone well-reputed in town.

I still remember moving everything into our new house, maybe thinking we could make it work, and not even having any lights that work because everything was disconnected.

Graciously, our friends let us stay at their house for 10 days while they were out of town.

Thus, Reed was thrown into being a contractor. He took on the job, even though he didn’t know how to wire in a light fixture (we did hire that out at first, lol). We got it livable enough in those 10 days, finishing the rest over the next year. And by October we celebrated our daughter’s 1st birthday with a big party at our house.

Reed says that if he hadn’t been forced into that position, he likely never would have pursued this career.

How we got started renovating houses
Our family the day we closed on our second house

We sold our first house, London Road, two years later and bought another fixer upper. This one sat on the hilltop and overlooked the gorgeous city and Lake Superior. While we lived there, Reed got his contractor’s license and we officially started our renovation business, The Elling Co.

Today Reed is a licensed Minnesota contractor and real estate agent. I do all of the interior design work. Reed and I love working as a team, and our work allows me to still stay home most of the time with our kids.

We do multiple home renovations a year, and it is our full-time income. We specialize in renovating homes that are designed and crafted with quality that lasts, finishing homes that are as historically accurate as we are able to with any constraints we are working within.

Reed did report that “contractor” to the city, and we believe he was fined. While we were very upset at that “contractor”, we are grateful for that situation that propelled us into this real estate career that we love.

How We Got Started Flipping Houses


May 31, 2022

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